How did Donald Trump do so well in the past two presidential elections? What we are seeing are the death throes of Christian, conservative, middle-class, white, heterosexual, cisgendered men who feel that these elections are a matter of life and death.
I had the misfortune of spending a great deal of time with a white racist man in the 1990’s. Even 25 years ago, he was frequently speaking of the pending doom in 50 years when whites become the minority in America. Today, the majority of children under 17, in America, are minorities. In addition, over 10% of all couples in America are interracial.
The changing demographics of American society scare a large segment of white people, and Trump speaks to them. When he proclaims that he will build a border wall, his followers see it as a symbol that Trump will help whites stay in the majority for a few extra years. When Trump cuts immigration rates and even has the citizenship of naturalized citizens reviewed, he is telling his base that he’s buying them extra time as the holders of power. When he comes out strongly for law enforcement, and against the Black Lives Matters movement, he is promising his base that he will keep minorities under control.
For many white people, they see the expansion of rights for others as a zero-sum game. In truth, they actually should. When the system is so stacked in favor of one particular demographic, it is basically impossible for another group to gain equality without the ruling class losing some of its advantages. Rights for women mean that mean must give up power. Rights for gay people means that straight people must give up something in exchange. Rights for Muslims means that Christians must give up some of their dominance.
Those of us that are progressive don’t typically care about losing advantage as we believe that the principle of fairness is far more important. For many white Americans though, this loss of advantage is unacceptable.
Americans live in a society where one’s value is based on one’s success. We live in a society where we are conditioned that hard work equals success. Unfortunately, we also live in a society where the capitalist class exploits the working class, and thus hardworking people are not seeing success. Without success, they have little value, and they are seen as a failure. This leaves them with a situation where they either accept that they are a failure or they have to find some extenuating circumstance to explain their lack of success.
Some look at the capitalist class and observe who has benefited the most from the labor of the working class. Others look around them and see the changing demographics of our society. They take an inaccurate understanding of concepts like Affirmative Action, and conclude that the minorities/women/immigrants working beside them are essentially “imposters,” and not actually deserving of the opportunities and recognitions they have received. These white Americans convince themselves that they would have been successful had it not been for these undeserving minorities/immigrants stealing the promotions and jobs that were rightfully earned by others.
These Americans sleep better at night because they conclude that they aren’t losers, but rather they are actually victims. They “know” that they are the real victims in America, and the liberals just want to enact more policies that will victimize them even more. They believe that social programs are just theft from hardworking (white) people that goes to feed and house minorities who won’t work (and yes, there is a paradoxical notion in their minds that immigrants/minorities are simultaneously too lazy to work and the same people stealing the jobs and promotions from white people).
Trump’s supporters think they are the only ones smart enough to see the conspiracy-laden truth that liberal support for BLM (Black Lives Matter) is actually just an excuse to allow racial minorities to steal white people’s property, destroy their homes and businesses, and take the few things that minorities haven’t already stolen from white society through a racist job market that gives an “unfair” advantage to minorities due to their race.
The red MAGA-hat wearing true American patriots “know” that liberals hate America (and by that they mean that liberals hate white society). In the minds of conservatives, liberals will stop at nothing to destroy American society, and they have teamed up with minorities/immigrants to make it happen.
Of course, their beliefs are completely ridiculous, but it is what seems to be influencing these American elections the most.